September 6, 2004

Ideas for the official Wisconsin state rock song: Part I .

Earlier today, I asked readers to email suggestions for the official state rock song. I'm getting some good email, so I'm going to do a Part I post. More parts to come (presumably). If you're in a state other than Wisconsin (or Ohio, which already has a state rock song), feel free copy the idea and try to get an appropriate song for your state. Or country. Feel free to send me ideas for the official United States rock song. My choice is not "Surfin' U.S.A." and of course not "Born in the U.S.A." ("You end up like a dog that's been beat too much") or "Living in the U.S.A." ("We're living in a plastic land"). It's clearly and definitely "Back in in the U.S.A."! ("Well, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A./Yes, I’m so glad I’m livin’ in the U.S.A./Anything you want, we got right here in the U.S.A.").

But back to Wisconsin: keep sending Wisconsin suggestions. And here's what I've got so far.

As expected, I'm getting some cheese-based ideas. But another Wisconsin product, motorcycles, seems much more suitable for a good rock song. In that vein, one reader suggests Bob Seger's "Roll Me Away," which expresses some appropriate sentiments. The rider starts out in Mackinaw City, and the question is does he take Route 75 south on his way out to California, or does he go north, via the Upper Peninsula so that key events in the song take place in Wisconsin? "Twelve hours out of Mackinaw City/Stopped in a bar to have a brew…" I say he took the northern route: first, it's much more scenic and in the spirit of the motorcycle, and, second, he had "a brew" in a bar and that sounds like Wisconsin. It also gets in a plug for a second Wisconsin product. On the downside: local do-gooders will not like alcohol in the state rock song, especially in the driving context. I'll just note that he says "a brew." The emailer notes that the singer meets a woman in the bar—"definitely a Wisconsin woman"—and that as the lyric goes on she "misses her home and heads back (which I think is a common story for Wisconsinites who leave then come back.)" The song also has a hawk, as a symbol of hope, and we have some fine hawks here in Wisconsin. So I like this idea.

To follow Ohio's lead, you could look for who the Wisconsin musicians are. I see there's Steve Miller, who wrote "Living in the U.S.A.," mentioned above. There's also "Space Cowboy," where he says "I told you 'bout living in the U.S. of A." and explains why he prefers space:
I was born on this rock [in Wisconsin]
And I've been travelin' through space
Since the moment I first realized
What all you fast talkin' cats would do if you could
You know, I'm ready for the final surprise.

Now, that's just too pessimistic. It reminds me of how New Jersey once contemplated making "Born to Run … the unofficial rock theme of our State's youth" (here's the resolution)(don't ask me why they would go to so much trouble to make it unofficial!). But the lyrics really aren't what the state ought to be saying to the youngsters:
Baby this town rips the bones from your back
It's a death trap, it's a suicide rap
We gotta get out while we're young …

"Rips the bones from your back"? What kind of an attitude is that? Personally, I would vote against any Springsteen song for the Wisconsin rock song, because he's too associated with that other state. And, since he's endorsed Kerry, we can't get both campaigns to play us our song.

One Wisconsin band suggestion is "Closer To Free" by the Waukesha band, the BoDeans. The words are appropriate, I think:
Everybody wants respect
Just a little bit
And everybody needs a chance
Once in a while
Everybody wants to be
Closer to Free

Not a bad idea!

UPDATE: An emailer notes that there is this album, "Viva Wisconsin," by the Wisconsin group Violent Femmes. I don't think we need an official state rock album, and I don't know the album, so someone else will have to suggest a song. Some of these titles--like "Dahmer Is Dead"--make me suspect that nothing is going to express the right sentiment.

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